We have been watching Charité at War. It is a six episode drama centered on the Berlin real Charité Hospital during World War Two. Rooted in various facts, with real historical figures making appearances, overall it is classic historical (and even romantic) fiction.
I was particularly drawn to it because being a German-made production about the Second World War, it is rare for rather obvious reasons.
That second episode is set in the “Fall of 1943.” We are at one point in it introduced to a Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. He comes by the hospital to visit a wounded comrade, who is also the son of the hospital’s chief surgeon, Ferdinand Sauerbruch. Stauffenberg reveals that he is shortly to head to Tunisia, where he will serve with Field Marshal Rommel.
The big problem with that?
It is historically impossible. The Germans had been defeated in Tunisia in May 1943 and the historical Stauffenberg had already been – in April – seriously wounded in Africa, losing an eye, his right hand, and fingers on his left hand. So in the “Fall of 1943” (September-November), there was no chance a healthy Stauffenberg was about to join Rommel in Africa.
Uh, oops. Frankly, I can’t believe German screenwriters made a historical real life chronology mistake THAT egregious. I suppose in noticing that, though, that is also me being the annoying historical fiction author.
The real Stauffenberg fought in Poland, France, and Russia before being wounded in Africa. He had held nationalist/racist views common in his social class – including the desire to turn Poles into, essentially, helots serving Germany – but those views evidently changed with time. (By 1942 he reportedly told a friend that the mass murders of Jews had to be stopped.) He is famous now because he was the officer who planted the briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944 that leveled Hitler’s East Prussian forest headquarters building and nearly killed the genocidal Nazi dictator. (An assassination attempt for which he was shot on July 21.)
No one who worked with the Nazi regime emerged from the war with entirely clean hands. The real Ferdinand Sauerbruch (who lived until 1951) was no different. However, he also took a moral stance opposing the Nazis’ euthanasia program, which forms one aspect of this series.
The historical chronology mistake of that second episode is actually dramatically irrevelant; the series is not meant to be a history book. What it does do is convey the moral dilemmas German doctors faced, the constant threat of being “informed on” by colleagues for “defeatism,” and well portrays the sense of perpetual unease in living under a paranoid tyrannical regime in which even non-violent dissent might get you guillotined. (That was how the “White Rose’s” Sophie Scholl was murdered in February 1943 in prison just hours after being found guilty of “treason.”) If you have any interest in this history this mini-series – in German, with English subtitles – is an uncommon production and well-worth your Netflix “quarantine” viewing time.
Hope you are having a good weekend.